Author: Compton, Cliff

Stage fright

Randy Morton wrote a beautiful column on stage fright. The fear of performing in front of people. Thatís a big one. It rates up there between bad marriage and death in a lot of folks minds. As for myself, I donít have much of it, though that was not always the case. I remember that in high school (I went to a very large school), I wanted to sing in a variety show. I was so afraid that I worked up a comedy routine as a scared performer. I went out on stage in painters overalls and a work shirt and just stood there staring at the spotlight, and shaking. I shook so hard I had to hold on to the piano to keep from falling over. Literally, my knees were buckling, and I was sweating like a bank robber in church. But I was up there to sing, and sing I did. I sang ďBorn to loseĒ, and I felt just like the loser in that song until I finished, and I heard the first hands clapping, then the adrenaline started rushing through my body and my nerves starting firing on all cylinders, and the endorphins started to flow. All of a sudden I felt like the seventeen old king of the world. I will never forget the rush that night. I barely slept. All I knew was that I wanted to feel that again, and it was worth the fear to know that 30 seconds of glory.

And I continually came back to it. Played everywhere I could. Suffered the fear. Internalized the rejection. Felt the rush. But still, before every show Iíd get nervous. Sometimes it was anticipation, sometimes it was terror, but the stage fright was always there.

But over time our motivation can change. What drives us to perform can evolve. The self image that needs the approval and applause of others is moderated by time and circumstance. Comfort in oneís on skin is also helpful. The realization that you arenít in this world to live up to somebody elseís expectation makes a person less concerned about how every member in the audience views him. And perhapsÖa personal understanding of the roll of an entertainer and the purpose for what we do can shake the fear from our insides.

When we perform for others, first off thatís something we really like to do. We ainít doing this to cause ourselves pain, weíre doing it because it makes us feel good! Sure, at various points in our lives we sing to exorcise our personal demons, or to try to explain ourselves in a way people would understand through our music, but mostly, weíre doing what we were designed to do. There is something wonderful about connecting with people at a heart level. Of singing a song that sooths someones troubled soul. Of singing of lost love, or new love, of life and death, of good times and heartache.

This world is difficult and wonderful. We can affect it when we sing or perform. Make life a little easier for someone. Giving them a few minutes to smile and feel better.

To me, Stage fright has been exchanged in a large degree by love for the audience. People want you to sing well, play well, perform well. They also are willing to forgive you if you screw up because they like you and you like them.

Audiences loved Hank Williams because he was real. He was deeply flawed, but he was trying, and he didnít hold nothing back. People like people who donít hold anything back. Not everyone has the courage to do that, just wind up and let Ďer rip. Often times people live vicariously through the performer who gives his or her all. I remember watching Tommy Emmanuel play guitar, and the intensity of his performance literally pulled me out of my seat. An almost out of body experience. For that moment, I lived through him. Not because of him, thatís the creators job, but I was deeply moved by the experience, and I still remember how good that made me feel to this very day.

Iím thinking about Randy Morton getting stage fright. Whatís he got to get stage fright about? His music is wonderful. Itís deep and powerful. People like to listen to it. Heís an upstanding quality person. People that know him, love him.

I donít knowÖmaybe itís kind of like playing the guitar. First: you canít play it very well. Second: you practice and then practice some more, and then some day you learn to play like Tommy Emmanuel, or at least Lester Flatt. So maybe itís just a matter of getting up there enough times that you start seeing beyond yourself to all those wonderful people youíre playing for. Then maybe someday, that Stage fright goes away.

Posted:  9/24/2011

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